Two Ancient Chinese Philosophies You Should Apply to Your Life This Year
China is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, and has given birth to some of the most beautiful art, literature and philosophy that mankind has created. Two of its philosophies/religions, Confucianism and Daoism, provided solutions for the Chinese people during the Period of Warring States (475-221 BCE), and just as how they helped guide those in the past, so too can they provide a basis for our morals and virtue today. As old as these philosophies are, they reflect an aspect of human nature that has and always will remain constant: our recognition of the importance of virtue.
Confucianism, founded by Confucius in the sixth century BCE, centers less around the universe and the unknown and more on one’s day-to-day life and how we deal with each other.
Confucius wrote a list of five virtues in which he believed every human should possess: correct behavior (manners, propriety), benevolence, honesty, knowledge, and faithfulness. During the Period of Warring States, there was much debate over the best way to bring China’s heinous tumult to a halt, and Confucius’s solution was called “Deliberate Tradition”. Similar to the five virtues, Confucius came up with yet another list of five key terms, which he said would correct the behavior of the Chinese people and bring the country back together in due time. The list was as follows:
Jen - “human heartedness”: represents the ideal relationship between two people, and the idea that respect should be given to everyone no matter what.
Chun Tzu - “superior person”: focuses on the individual’s role in Jen, and how one should be comfortable in their own skin, so that they can put their efforts toward helping others.
Li - “propriety”: holding good manners, and using proper language and forms of address.
Te - “virtue”: says that leaders should have a durable devotion to public welfare, and have little to no selfish or personal ambitions. Te also encompasses the idea that morality flows from the top down: leaders must set a good example for their people.
Wen - “the art of peace”: the idea that art has the power to transform human nature.
The teachings of Confucius were so highly revered in China that it is still practiced today. These values have helped the Chinese people for centuries, so it is quite likely that they can make a positive difference in our lives today.
Daoism was propagated by Laozi after the fifth century BCE, when he wrote the “Dao de Ching”, a collection of the key philosophies of Daoism. To Daoists, the main aim in life is to find your Dao, or your “way”. “The way” is something that is unique to each individual person, and is therefore not something that can be taught, but rather felt. The best way to find your Dao is by meditating, or attempting to silence the inner dialogue in efforts to become synchronized with yourself.
An iconic symbol of Daoism is the ying-yang, a circle divided in half by a curvy line. One half is white with a small black dot in the wider end, and the other half is black with a small white dot in the wider end. This coexistence of black and white symbolizes the idea that the world is made up of complimentary opposites, and that humans must live in harmony with these opposites. Harmony, to the Daoists, is the key to living a peaceful life on Earth.
Daosim is one of the most unique religions in the world, because there are no holy books or lists that dictate the proper way to reach the divine. Daoism says that you, and only you, are responsible for your fate, and no one else can tell you how to find your Dao. (Yoga and meditation are examples of ways to find your Dao).
Confucianism and Daoism are two incredible philosophies with elements so powerful that they still provide substance to the lives of humans today. Be inspired by these treasures of the past, and try improving your inner self this New Year!